In his final new year’s address as president Václav Klaus has announced
that a partial amnesty will come into effect on 2 January. People who had
previously received legally binding prison sentences of one year or less
will be released from jail. Prisoners who are older than 75 years old as
1 January and who are serving sentences of no more than 10 years will also
be released. The amnesty also lowers sentences for a number of other
In the televised speech, President Klaus, whose second and last term will end in March, spoke about the downbeat and apathetic public mood in the Czech Republic, which is exacerbated by political squabbles, inadequate political opposition and the European debt crisis. He also called on the public to return to old values and traditions.
During a special edition of the Václav Moravec talk show on Tuesday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that he does not believe the Constitutional Court would change the part of the constitution that stipulates direct presidential elections. The premier said that it would be unthinkable for the court to cancel the January elections, but said that changes to the accompanying executive law are not out of the question.
The Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the Slovak Prime Minister Robert
Fico appeared on a special edition of the Questions of Václav Moravec
television talk show on 1 January, marking the 20th anniversary of the
split of Czechoslovakia. The two heads of government agreed that the their
countries should do more to work together in the areas of defence and
international relations. Mr Nečas said that common defense of the two
countries‘ airspace could begin functioning by 2016 or 2017. Although
both he and Mr Fico admited that there is certain resistance from generals
in both countries to these plans. The Slovak premier pointed out that the
Czechs and Slovak could in the future share consulates and embassies in
some parts of the world.
The show was broadcast from the famous Vila Tugendhat in the Moravian capital of Brno, where the break-up agreement was signed in 1992 by the then Czechoslovak Prime Minister Václav Klaus and the head of the Slovak government Vladimír Mečiar.
The Czech Philharmonic orchestra will perform the New Year concert in celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening in Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall. The concert will be broadcast live on Czech Radio’s Vltava station. The orchestra will be conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek.
The Prague performance art space MeetFactory will show a selection of documentaries by the Slovak director Zuzana Piussi, who is currently under criminal investigation in Slovakia in connection with her film Nemoc třetí moci. Ms Piussi has made a number of provocative documentaries focusing on corruption in Slovak politics and attacking top politicians like the current prime minister Robert Fico. Her films will be screened at the MeetFactory on 21 January.
Two Czech ski jumpers – Jan Matura and Roman Koudelka – have entered the final stage of the Four Hill Tournament, after finishing among the top 20 after the New Year’s jump in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany on Tuesday. Although Matura was in 8th place at the end of the first round, the results of the second round brought him down to 16th place. Koudelka came in 18th. The best Czech jumper Lukáš Hlava took a fall after completing his jump in the first round, and was knocked out due to a low final score.
New Year’s celebrations are due to take place on Prague’s Old Town Square where Prague City Hall has prepared a special programme starting at 2pm in the afternoon. People also traditionally gather on Wenceslas Square for midnight fireworks followed by a street party. Some 200 officers will out to maintain law and order in the city centre and traffic restrictions will be in place on Wenceslas Square after 4pm. In line with a special regulation relating to the recent spate of methanol poisonings, street vendors will not be allowed to sell spirits. The metro will run for an hour later than usual closing down at 1am on January 1st. Prague City Hall has scheduled a New Year’s fireworks display for 6pm on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has refused an invitation from President Klaus to attend the traditional New Year’s lunch at Lány Chateau. No reason has been given for the refusal. Commentators note that relations between the president and prime minister have been increasingly strained in recent months. The president’s office has confirmed that the head of state will meet with the speakers of the lower and upper house of Parliament on Thursday. President Klaus’ second term in office is due to expire in March.
Two patients who were admitted to Prague’s General Teaching Hospital with swine flu in the past 48hours are reported to be in stable condition. Their condition is complicated by pneumonia and both remain in intensive care. One of the patients is a pregnant woman. It is not clear where they contracted the virus. Although the authorities say there is no reason for undue concern they have urged high-risk groups to get a flu vaccine which comprises the H1N1 virus.
Three people were injured in a collision involving two trams near Prague’s Hradčanská metro station in the early hours of Monday. One of the drivers allegedly failed to brake in time as he approached a tram stop ramming into a stationary vehicle in front of him. One of the injured suffered a broken leg, the other two had lighter injuries. The accident slowed down traffic in the vicinity since firemen were called to dislodge the trams.